Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back to School

It's the first day of August and school is looming large on the horizon.
How can that be? We just celebrated the first day of summer break a few weeks ago!

The truth is most children look forward to the beginning of a new school year.
Reuniting with friends. Establishing familiar routines. Increasing their independence.

If your child is new to preschool this year or feeling shy about returning, today's book is a perfect read aloud.

It's Time for Preschool! by Esme Raji Codell.

Full of color and movement, this book shares the full range of activities that make up a productive day in preschool. Informative and engaging. Reassuring and exciting.

Illustrator Sue Rama uses watercolor and digital collage to create eye-catching double page spreads.

Esme Raji Codell is one of my favorite authors. Take a look at her other titles for young and old alike.
Spoiler alert - she has a new picture book coming to bookstores later this month!

This book is also a great read for the first day of school!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


We've been watching the Olympics for the past few days and plan to watch many more hours of coverage in the days to come.
Inspiring. Incredible. And most of them look like they've barely left childhood.

Even young children are aware of this amazing event as it impacts their lives in small or large ways.

If you've been searching for a book to share, you've probably found the list of children's picture books with the Olympics as a theme is a short one.

There are informational books about individual sports and a few books written by the star athletes themselves. The difficult thing to find is a "good story" that incorporates the Olympics in some way.

Koala Lou by Mem Fox is a wonderful tale about the need for a mother's love and the great satisfaction that comes from being sure of that love. It also happens to include the "Bush Olympics" as part of the plot.

Mem Fox is one of my favorite authors. Her stories come from moments in her own life, events and things that have touched her in some personal way.  She also has a great website where she shares so much more than a simple bibliography. You can check it out here.

Not only is it a favorite story for young listeners around the globe, Ms. Fox lists it as her own favorite from her extensive list of published titles!

Young Koala Lou begins to feel less important to her family and decides that winning the Bush Olympics is the way to be someone special once again.

Enjoy the Olympics and some great reading with your own children this week!

Cooking Extension Idea:
Mini Olympic Pizza
Click here for a step by step tutorial on making your own. Thanks to Sun Hats and Wellie Boots for a great idea!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What colors do you see?

Children are such good observers. They take the time to really look and see things that grown-ups typically hurry by and ignore.

Children are also good questioners. They know how to ask "why" and never fear the thought of looking foolish for having asked.

While both of these qualities can seem frustrating when you have a time constraint or need a few moments of quiet, observing and asking are two of the most important ways young children learn.

 Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff is a concept book about colors. Baby Bears questions his mother and observes the world around him to see the colors in the answers she provides.

The patience of mother bear and the exciting discoveries of baby bear make this a warm and enjoyable read aloud.

The illustrations are vibrant and bold. A mix of block printing and watercolors provide strong images with heavy black lines, and soft, blended edges in the background.

This gentle concept book is a great read aloud for "teaching" colors, but more importantly, it reminds us to take the time to really look at our world with fresh eyes.

What colors do you see?

Science Extension Idea:
Scavenger Hunt for Colors
Help children group themselves into pairs and give them a small container to collect items from around the room. Assign each group a color card and ask them to fill their container with items that match their assigned color.
Provide assistance as they move around the room.
Come together as a group and share what was found. Have a large piece of colored paper for each group to place their items on.
Discuss how they chose the items. Ask each child to bring something from home the next day that would match their assigned color. Take a look outside for an additional Color Hunt.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Losing a Tooth

Losing baby teeth is a milestone for young children.

It's exciting and frightening.

Will it hurt?  Will I look funny?  Can I still eat my favorite food?  When will it EVER come out?

Answers to those very questions can be found in the newest book of the Bear series, Bear's Loose Tooth. Author Karma Wilson shares how Bear and his friends experience the anticipation and anxiety of a loose tooth.

This is another darling read aloud full of characters who care about each other and offer the most reassuring advice in a time of uncertainty.

The rhythm and rhyme of the text is naturally appealing for both reader and listener. Children can quickly "read" the short phrases after a few visits with the book.

Even the "tooth fairy" is a part of the story, leaving a tasty treat rather than money. 

The illustrations by Jane Chapman are both playful and realistic. The woodland creatures are cuddly without looking like stuffed animals.

If you haven't read the other books about Bear, run to your library and check them out now! Just click here to find the entire series on Karma's website.

Fine Motor Extension Idea:
Brushing Teeth
Materials: dolls, toothbrushes, toothpaste, small cups, water, towels
Procedure: Fill small cups with water. Set out dolls, toothpaste and brushes. Children can practice applying toothpaste to the brushes and "brushing" the dolls teeth.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Growing Things

We've been enjoying the benefits of our backyard garden.
Fresh tomatoes and peppers. Sweet berries. Spicy herbs.

My children and I marvel each year how such wonderful things can emerge from the simple seeds and tiny starter plants placed in the garden soil.

It's miraculous.

Seed Soil Sun by Cris Peterson is a book about that very miracle. How three simple ingredients, mixed correctly, turn into a bounty of food.

The photographs by David R. Lundquist are vivid and beautifully composed. They help to clarify the great amount of information packed into a single paragraph on each double page spread.

While this is a bit much for a read aloud to a group of preschoolers, I would recommend it in small doses over the course of a few days.
It will certainly encourage many conversations and questions about food.

For a science based informational book, it is a pleasure to read again and again.

Science Extension Idea:
Planting seeds.
No matter how many times we do this, it is always exciting to see those tiny sprouts burst through the potting soil.
It provides a hands-on science experiment that gives us practice in observation (checking on the progress daily), planning (when the sprouts are two inches high we can take them home), and care-taking (watering, turning the planters).

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Isn't it amazing what you can do with a piece of string?

Tie. Measure. Connect. Knot. Wrap. Knit. Weave. Sew. Loop. Crochet. Cut.

Just how long can a long string be?! by Keith Baker is an engaging romp through the day using just a piece of string and creative thinking.

The artwork is lovely with it's pastel hues. The illustrations show movement and texture as the string is used again and again for so many interesting things.

I think the best thing about this story is the idea of many "solutions" for a single "problem".
It's popular to repurpose and reuse items today. This book plants a seed for that thought.

Read how the simplest of materials can make for an afternoon of discovery and fun, then ask your audience for their own ideas!

Fine Motor Extension Idea:
Materials: Yarn, scissors, sensory table or large tub, envelopes
Procedure: Cut longer lengths of yarn (12 inches or more) and place them in the sensory table along with several pair of children's scissors. Allow children to work together as they cut the lengths into smaller and smaller pieces of string.
They can collect their work in envelopes to take home or use them for art projects at a later date.

Monday, July 9, 2012


The weather is hot.
The earth is dry.

I don't usually think about rain.
I dislike storms.
But lately I've been hopeful when I see a darker cloud.
Maybe just a little shower?  Maybe a big downpour?

Are you wishing for rain?

Come on, Rain! by Karen Hesse is a story of anticipating and enjoying one of nature's gifts.

A little girl looks for rain.

"Come on, rain!" I say, squinting into the endless heat.
A creeper of hope circles 'round my bones.
Come on, rain!" I whisper.
"Come on, rain!" I cheer, peeling out of my clothes and into my suit...
She leads her friends in a celebratory dance as the rain cools and refreshes them after a long dry spell. Their mothers join them, in unusual adult abandon, as they rejoice together.

Come on, rain!

Fine Motor Extension Idea:
Water Painting
This fun activity requires few materials and creates no lasting artwork. It's especially fun for toddlers and preschoolers on sunny days.
Materials: Buckets, Old Paint brushes - large, (think house painting rather than the usual children's size), water source to fill the buckets.
Procedure: Fill buckets with "paint" (water). Give brushes and buckets to children and allow them to "paint" on the sidewalks, bricks, garage doors, etc. Help them watch their painting evaporate and disappear. Can they make a big painting before it begins to dry? How long of a line can they paint before it begins to fade away?

Monday, July 2, 2012

What to Read When

I was in our local library last week helping my son collect a stack of books for reading at home, when I overheard a mother ask the librarian for help in selecting "good" books for her child.

She wanted something that had excellent sentence structure and storytelling in line with the classics of children's literature.  Her child was four years old.

The librarian seemed a bit unsure of what to offer and began to look for a tried and true "list" of books from various websites that the mother might approve of.

I couldn't help but think of a number of "good" books that told wonderful stories, filled with beautiful artwork that would be appropriate and enjoyable for a four year old child. Before I could interrupt and offer some humble suggestions as a fellow mom, she gathered her four year old son and his baby sister to go.

The woman left, her book bag empty.

Like the woman at the library, we can be overwhelmed with the choices before us or concerned about what books are "right" for our child's reading level, and end up with nothing.

 What to Read When by Pam Allyn is a great resource for anyone who wants to support young children in reading and needs some direction to get started.

She uses the life cycle of childhood - the occasions, big and small,  age ranges and themes to determine her recommendations for every child from birth to ten years.  A How-To section, the Reader's Ladder, and more pack the pages of this easy to digest read.

A great addition to the parent bookshelf and a great help on your next trip to the library!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Here's a cool alphabet book for all the "car riders" of the world. (Actually, you could ride a bus or a bike and still enjoy it.)  
Backseat A-B-See by Maria van Lieshout.

Many children are plugged into video games and DVDs during car rides. I understand why.
We're all in our cars more than we'd like to be, and finding a form of entertainment can be challenging sometimes.

This book encourages us to unplug and look out the window to see what we can see as we ride down the road.
As if that's not good enough, it offers practice identifying letters. A great pre-reading skill.

While it was written with young children in mind, especially those fascinated with the theme of transportation, older children can benefit from this book as well.

What do all those signs mean? Are they new or have they been around for a long time? How do they assist us as we travel?

You could turn it into an "I Spy" game for signage, keeping track of how many of those from the book you can identify on the road.

The author shares additional information in her book.
Did you know...
The graphic design of road signs has an impressive history.
Some were designed by a team of graphic artists and received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence in 1984.

I told you it was cool.

Writing Extension Idea:
Create your own road sign.
Materials:  Heavy Paper, markers, scissors, glue, masking tape or other strong tape, magazine pictures, photos, paint sticks, etc.
Procedure: Create a sign for a road in your neighborhood or your own driveway! Think about what you want the sign to do. Give a warning. Give directions. Share other information. (Pet Crossing, Watch out for bunnies!, Steep Driveway, Tricycle Lane)
After you complete your sign, tape it to your paint stick.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Papa. Father. Dad.
Different names that all mean the same thing. A central person in a child's life.

The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson is a cumulative tale (think The House that Jack Built) about a young girl, her father, and an apple pie.

The story builds as the pages turn. It begins with a small thing, the apples, and grows to includes the whole world.

This is the book, warm and sweet...
It's a tale of the love between father and child, and a celebration of how things in our world work together for good.

The illustrations are unusual for the current market, using only three colors. I personally think it's a nice departure from full-color picture books. Thank you Jonathan Bean.

The vintage style still provides plenty of detail and the sparse use of red helps young readers focus on those apples.

I recommend this charming read aloud for all those celebrating a Happy Father's Day!

Field Trip Extension Idea:
Pick Your Own Farm
Go apple picking.  If you can't find a farm,  head to the grocery story and take a little time admiring all the different types of apples there.
Notice size, color, weight, and names of apples.
Choose some to take home and enjoy them together.
You don't even have to bake a pie.
Slice them up. Use a corer. Cut the apple in half to find the "star".
Add peanut butter or caramel for dipping.
Cook them down in a pan and mash for applesauce.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Swimming. A favorite summer pastime.
Doesn't everyone love to swim?
No. Not when it means making the swim team.

As adults, we often forget about the incredible concerns young children have when it comes to "being on a team". We assume that just because a child enjoys an activity, they will enjoy that same activity at a competitive level.

Make the Team, Baby Duck by Amy Hest is a story about a little duckling who would like to try for the swim team, but doesn't feel quite up to the task.

Her parents say all the things most of us would say when trying to coax our children into the water.
"Don't you remember what fun you had last summer?"
"Be a big girl now, and jump right in!"

 But Grandpa Duck is wiser. He listens and then responds to Baby Duck.
"Perhaps when you're ready, you'll be on the team."
Teams are great. They teach both useful skills and life lessons.
Sometimes I wonder...
Perhaps we need to be a bit more like Grandpa Duck, waiting till the child tells us they're ready.
Then they can enjoy the activity and the team as well!

Take a look at all the books in the Baby Duck series by Amy Hest and Jill Barton. They're charming read alouds with a touch of thoughtful Grandparenting woven into each one.

Sensory Extension Idea:
Rubber Ducks in the Water Table
Materials: Water Table or some type of tub or shallow plastic container, water, rubber ducks, small pitchers or cups, towels for cleanup.
Procedure: Fill the water table or container with water, add ducks and other items. Allow children time to explore and find ways of moving the ducks around in the water. Move them in a group or one at a time. Can they race each other like a swim team?
Talk about swimming under the water and over (on top) of the water.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On the Farm

I've always wanted to live on a farm.
It's kind of like the perpetual dream of getting a pony for your birthday.
The idea is romantic. The reality is work.

Summertime is farm time.
4-H clubs are in high gear. "Pick Your Own" is in full swing, and Farmers Markets are bustling on Saturday mornings.

Reading about the farm is almost as good as being there. Especially if you have a beautifully illustrated book full of short, sweet poems about the various animal life that resides there.

On the Farm by David Elliott is a perfect read aloud for summer. 
Each double page spread highlights a different animal on or about the farm.
The poems, while very brief, give a wink to the true nature of the beasts they describe.
The illustrations are by Holly Meade. Woodblock prints and watercolor give the book a nostalgic appeal. Vivid and eye-catching, but calming as well. 
I love the colors and texture. Light and shadow. Young children will spend time looking into the pictures as they read the book again and again.

Art Extension Idea:
Foam Tray Prints
Materials: foam trays (recycle those from the grocery - clean with bleach/water solution first), tempera paint, roller, paper, plastic knives, shallow dish for paint, clean up supplies.
Procedure: Draw your farm animal (or whatever you choose) onto the back of the foam tray. "Score" or etch the drawing with the plastic knife. The knife should not cut all the way through the tray, just make an indentation over the drawn lines.
Using a paint roller and a shallow dish of paint, cover the roller with paint. Roll the paint over the back of the tray, covering the drawing/etching. Turn the tray over and press onto a sheet of paper.
Remove the tray and see your print!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chinese Movie Night

Our family has a tradition each Friday. Chinese Movie Night.
We order take out from a local Chinese restaurant and set up tray tables or choose picnic style in front of the television for a family friendly movie.
It's not the most exciting thing we ever do or the most educational, but it's something special to us.
We look forward to Fridays because it's our time to be together as a family.

Big Jimmy's Kum Kau Chinese Take Out by Ted Lewin is the story of a young boy who helps out at his family's restaurant.

It begins with the early morning deliveries and follows the hectic pace of the kitchen as meals are prepared and sent home with customers. The young boy narrates the day with great enthusiasm and pride, not only in his own work, but that of his extended family working together.

I love that about the book, the pride in a job well done. Isn't that a lesson we want to teach every child?

I'm a big fan of watercolor. I adore the amazing illustrations by Mr. Lewin.
They've been called photo-realistic and it's the perfect description. I also agree with luminous, gorgeous, or anything else that sings their beauty. The cleverly designed end papers are menu reproductions from the Kam Kau restaurant.
In addition to all that, there's a bit of a surprise at the end of the book when the narrator shares his favorite food. What could it be?  Ask your child to guess before you turn the page.

Whether you enjoy Chinese food or not, you're sure to delight in this tasty treat of a book for read aloud.

Cooking Extension Idea:
Provide dry rice for exploration in the sand table for a day. Measure and weigh amounts of rice during play. Discuss texture and size.
Cook rice in a steamer (no stove top necessary) and discuss how different the rice looks and feels once it has cooked. Show the difference between a cup of uncooked rice and how much rice results from cooking that cupful. What happens to make the rice "grow"?
Enjoy rice for snack!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Maurice Sendak

A well-known figure of the children's book world passed away Tuesday.
Maurice Sendak was 83 years old. He said that he never meant to write for children. He just wrote.

Of all his books, my favorite is Outside Over There.

While I love this story, it is a somewhat frightening tale. Dark and guilt ridden (if only Ida had been watching the baby, the goblins wouldn't have kidnapped her!), it may be too much for young listeners. 

All is set right in the end. Ida rescues her baby sister and they return safely to the mother who's waiting, with the promise of the father's return from sea.

The illustrations are haunting and beautiful. The babies are my favorites.  I love the attention  given to the hands and feet of the characters. Gorgeous.

There are layers of things going on in each painting, matching the tone of the story perfectly. Even the font used for the text is an elegant, calligraphy style.

Thank you Mr. Sendak for your amazing contribution to the world of children's literature.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Yesterday was Derby Day in Kentucky and I was there, hat and all! While it was fun to people-watch, the horses were the real stars.

Most children have some real life experience with horses. From pony rides at birthday parties, to field trips on a farm, we can see and touch them.

There is something romantic about them too. Maybe it's the princess mode of transportation thing, or their big, big eyes.

As beloved as they are, it's not an easy task to find a picture book that features both a wonderful horse character and beautiful illustrations of those. Here's one that hits the mark.

Everything but the Horse by Holly Hobbie is a story from the author's own life. Like many little girls, she longs for a horse to call her own. Her family says no, but Holly can't believe it, especially with her birthday right around the corner.

The illustrations are true to her style, one that I find endearing. The pen and ink and watercolor paintings are as gentle as the story, and fit the rural setting beautifully.

There is a surprise at the end of the story. Some folks find it disappointing, but I disagree. It is both fitting and a good thing to share with children. I believe the sense of gratitude at the conclusion of the book is the best part!

Fine Motor Extension Idea:
Tracing Horseshoes
Materials needed: paper, pencils or markers, scissors, and horseshoes (we used real ones, but if they're not readily available in your area, you could cut stencils from heavy paper stock)
Procedure: Set out supplies and allow children time to practice tracing around the horseshoes, color them in with markers, and cut them out
The weight of the horseshoes helps to keep them in place.
It takes concentration to work around the curved shape when tracing and again when cutting. Eye-hand coordination and pencil grasp are both practiced in this activity.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day

While Sunday was officially Earth Day, many children will continue celebrating it all week at school. It's a great opportunity to build responsibility into our youngest citizens of the planet, and teach some principals of science along the way.

Many of the books that talk about Earth Day tend to be so "educational" that they forget to be fun.
Not this one.

Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals is a great selection for informing and entertaining. I can't help but love any book that you can "sing" as easily as you can read!

The full title is Compost Stew An A to Z Recipe for the Earth.  Yes, an alphabet book with substance.

Apple cores
Bananas, bruised
Coffee grounds with filters, used

It's also a "cookbook" of sorts, providing a recipe for making garden compost. You'll be amazed at all the things that you can add. There's even a list in the back of what you can't.

Ashley Wolff, the illustrator, uses recycled and found items to incorporate in her detailed collage illustrations. It's quite a treasure hunt to look for those things that make up the fascinating pictures.

Happy Earth Day (or week if you're lucky)

Science Extension Ideas:
Visit Mary McKenna Siddals website for a slew of great activities to use alongside her book.
How-to's for making your own compost in a jar, slideshows, activity sheets and more.

Compost Stew

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Besides Bedtime

Most parents are willing to read to or with their children at bedtime.
It's a natural choice to slow things down. Calm down those bodies. Wind down those brains.
Preparing for a good night's sleep is essential and we're pretty good at using books to help us.

What other times during the day do you read to your kids?

Do you start the day off with a "wake up" book?

Do you read at the table after meals?

Do you use car time for books (iPad versions)?
Do you take books outside?

Our days are full. We can't imagine squeezing one more thing into them.
Will you give it a try?

Reading together is a great way to take a break that brings us closer. We can share a laugh or a sigh depending on the story. No matter when. No matter where.

Check out this link from Creekside Learning for additional ideas on reading besides bedtime.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Mother Goose

April is National Poetry Month.
In honor of that decree, I'm sharing something a little old and a little new. Poetry-wise.
The Neighborhood Mother Goose by Nina Crews.

A great introduction to poetry is through the tried and true Mother Goose rhymes.
Nina Crew has taken those same rhymes and added contemporary computer generated illustrations that bring the rhymes to life.

Illustrations provide visual cues that help the reader to connect meaning to the printed word. They help the reader make sense of new vocabulary. They help to tell the story.
The reading experience is way more fun with eye-popping pictures on every page.

 Here's one example of her excellent illustrations. It's clearly a more current connection to the rhyme. There are no images from the 18th century in this book!

To market, to market to buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig.
To market, to market to buy a fat hog.
Home again, home again, jiggety jog.
To market, to market to buy a plum bun.
Home again, home again, market is done.

Try to remember a nursery rhyme you learned as a child, and find some new ones too, as you share this charming collection.

Language Extension Idea:
Listening for the ending rhyme sound.
Using the example above, write out the nursery rhyme on chart paper. Say it with the children until they are able to join in with you. Ask them to listen for words that sound alike or rhyme. When they hear one, have them give a thumbs up. Circle the two rhyming words. Look at them and see if anyone can find similarities? Are there any matching letters?
For older children, you can move into writing pairs or lists of rhyming words.
Being aware of and able to distinguish those rhyming sounds are great pre-reading skills!

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I've been on Spring Break with my youngest child (note the lack of consistency with posting).
I love these little breaks from the hustle and bustle, but I also look forward to being back "on track" with our usual routine.

Some people roll with the changes no matter what. At least that's what I've heard.
Not me. I'm not that crazy about change.

I'd like to keep my children in their preschool years.  Myself in my thirties.
 Fall and Spring should both last at least six months just so I can get used to them before they're gone.

In Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich, Mister Bud is a dog who has a schedule. His day is carefully crafted into exact blocks of time and he likes it that way.

Suddenly, someone new enters the picture and the schedule is in danger! Mister Bud has to deal with some changes. He likes it about as much as I like getting a new Drivers License photo.

The new dog, Zorro, isn't too thrilled either. It takes a little time for both of them to discover that they have some things in common. Life is twice the fun with a new friend to share it (as long as everyone sticks to the schedule).
Readers and listeners alike will enjoy the illustrations, especially the hilarious expressions of Mister Bud and Zorro. They show the joys and struggles of sharing throughout the daily routine. The expanse of white space on the page brings your eye right to the action (or lack of it at "nap time"). The owner is seen as only a hand trying to restrain the leash, or a leg being leaned on.

Anyone who has ever struggled with change will be able to relate to this fun and engaging tale.
New addition to the family. Starting school. Life is full of change. Most of it is pretty good.

Field Trip Extension Ideal:
Visit your local animal shelter and bring supplies.
Find out what types of items the shelter can use (old blankets, rugs).
During the visit, ask the shelter volunteer to share what kind of schedule the animals are kept on.
What times do they eat, sleep, exercise, etc.?
When you return to school or home, write out the schedule for the animals and compare it to the one that the children follow. What things are similar? What is different?

Friday, April 13, 2012


Stars by Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee is not a poetry book, but it feels so poetic, both in verse and pictures

Stars are certainly found in the sky, but where else can you find these tiny pieces of magic?
Dandelion fluff and bunches of moss can be transformed into stars when you look closely, as children often do.

The illustrations show "everyday" items, like a stick or a cartwheel, through the lens of a young child. Wonder fills each page.

Stars are not only things you see, but can describe how you feel.

"Some days you feel shiny as a star."
"If you do something important, you might be called a star."
" But some days you don't feel shiny."

Being reminded of how to view the world as a child is a gift. This book wraps it up with a bow.
Share it with all the "stars" in your world.

Extension Idea:
Click here for some post read aloud ideas. The Learning Time Resources (geared for children ages 4-5) can be downloaded for future reference. Check out the website while you're there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

To Read or Not to Read

When I saw this book on the shelf at my local bookstore, I knew I had to have it.
The title got me first.
I also had great appreciation for the cover.

The slightly panicked look on his face got me thinking.
I wanted to know WHY the little boy wouldn't read. What terrible thing was waiting inside the pages?

I was a little nervous.
I had to know.

So I bought it and read it.

I Will Not Read This Book by Cece Meng, illustrated by Joy Ang is a delightful story. One that shows what great lengths a child may go to, simply to avoid reading.
Because sometimes, "Reading is hard and I don't read fast and... there are words I don't know."

The joy of reading is quickly lost when always tied to a goal. So many minutes or words per night. Comprehension questions. Book reports.

The reluctant reader in this story is willing to face hanging from a cliff over shark infested waters rather than read.  He's willing to endure tickling from a monkey and a speeding train. Anything.

How does it end?
He's willing to read if, and only if, someone he loves will read it WITH him.

Three cheers for read alouds!

Writing Extension Idea:
I do an exercise like this at the beginning of each year as I'm getting to know the children in my class. It gives me a little knowledge about the individual and it gives each child a chance to share their thoughts on some big ideas.
Materials Needed:  Large drawing paper (big enough to trace a child's body), markers, interview sheet.
Procedure: Children lie down in any pose they choose and I quickly trace their body outline. They use markers to draw details if they choose, or simple to add color and decorate as they see fit.
Using the following statements, I interview each child and record their answers on the Interview Sheet. We hang the tracings and interviews on the classroom walls right away. 
1. I like 
2. I do not like
3. I am afraid of?
4. I am not afraid of?

Monday, April 9, 2012


Unusual? I think so.
Colorful? Absolutely.
Goggle-eyed? Without a doubt.
Cool? I have to think about that.

Chameleons are Cool by Martin Jenkins is both a nonfiction book and an engaging read aloud. I recently watched a group of seven to nine year old students totally engrossed as this book was shared.

It presents interesting facts about the physical and behavioral characteristics of chameleons. The vivid artwork by Sue Shields keeps pace with the enthusiasm of the narrator, and even includes additional facts in small print as they curl around the creatures.

Here's a couple I didn't know before reading Chameleons are Cool.
Chameleons move their eyes independently (teachers and parents could see a lot more of what goes on if our eyes worked that way).
Chameleons change color, not to blend in with their surroundings, but when they're angry, sick, hot, or cold.

Martin Jenkins definitely thinks chameleons are cool. So do I.

Geography Extension Idea:
Many species of chameleons are found in Madagascar. (Children are familiar with this term thanks to the hit movies and television shows from Nickelodeon.)
Look at a world map to find this country. How far away it is from your home or school? How would you travel there to see a chameleon?
Why do chameleons live in Madagascar?  Why don't they live here?

Check out this website for more information about these amazing creatures.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Today begins National Library Week. Hurrah for local libraries!

What serves as an invitation to an entire world of information and entertainment, requires no batteries or recharging, and fits in your pocket? Oh yeah, and its free.
You guessed it. The humble library card.
Do you have one?

In today's book choice, Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, a lion becomes a regular patron of the library (but he doesn't get his own library card). While an unusual guest, he is allowed as long as he follows the rules. He enjoys the activities and even provides useful services to the staff and patrons until one fateful day.  

What happens if you NEED to break a rule?  Is is ever OK to break a rule?
Legitimate questions. They're the kind that build critical thinking skills in little brains.
Library Lion opens that discussion.

More than that, this story also depicts the library as a place to belong. A warm and inviting place where friends gather, share, and help each other.  A place you want to visit.

Support your local library this week. Visit their website and then visit in person.

Field Trip Extension Idea:
Visit your local library.
Prepare for your visit by talking about what rules might apply (No Roaring).
Look at a map of the library to see all the different sections it's divided into. Find the children's section and mark it with a big "X" for treasure.
Practice the "pull and peek" method for choosing a book.
If you're a parent, let each of your children sign up for their own card.
If you're a teacher, encourage your students to get one.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Tomorrow is a big day. Easter Sunday.
As a Christian, it's much more than egg hunts and baskets filled with chocolate bunnies. This holiday is  a centering point of my faith.

There are a lot of beautiful, entertaining books that cover one or more aspects of this special season. You can find stories about the Easter Bunny, Eggs, Spring Animals, and more.
I've chosen this book to celebrate Easter for what it means to me.

Gail Gibbons is a well known nonfiction author for young children. Having published nearly 50 informational books for beginning readers, her treatment of a subject is always age appropriate.

Easter is no exception. The religious aspects of the holiday are introduced. Clear and concise. It doesn't shy away from including the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Various legends that are still a part of the Easter holiday are also discussed. The final page gives a brief description of additional Easter Holy Days.

The illustrations remind me of stained glass windows. I always loved those. Anybody remember them from a church long ago?
The simple stylized drawings and vivid watercolors are appealing and seem the perfect fit with the factual content.

I think you'll find room to nestle a copy right between the chocolate bunny and the jelly beans.

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Girls vs Boys

There are "Girl" books and "Boy" books.
Not every book falls into one of these categories.
Thank goodness.

They begin on the picture book shelves and continue all the way to the young adult selections.
You know which is which just by looking at the cover. Usually.

These are both good read aloud choices. I like the story and illustrations in each. But it's pretty clear which gender the book is geared to.

Girls will often read a book about "boyish" things or a book where a boy is the main character.
Boys will not read, no way, no how, what they consider a "girl" book once they become readers. Typically.

Dr. Danny Brassel, nationally known speaker on the subject of reading, shares this statistic:
Four out of five struggling readers are boys.
What can you do to help?
For 10 great tips on encouraging those reluctant readers of the male persuasion, take a look at this article by Dr. Brassel, courtesy of

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Puppy Love

Some people are "dog" people. Some people aren't.
Me? I'm definitely not a dog person, but I do love a good book about those canine companions.

Dogs by Emily Gravett is a book about ALL the kinds of dogs that you can love.
Slow dogs. Fast dogs. Dogs that bark. Dogs that don't.
But which is the dog that you love best?

Her pencil and watercolor illustrations show not only the characteristics of size and color, they also give each dog a unique personality. Look carefully and you might catch a glimpse of your own pooch (if you're a "dog" person).

Each double page spread carries one sentence, keeping this book simple enough for the youngest child to enjoy.  Take note of the final page as it reveals the twist in the "tail".

Math Extension Idea:
Graphing Pets
Using cut-outs of common pets (dogs, cats, fish, birds), we graph which pet each child has or wishes they could have.
After everyone has a chance to add their pet to the board, we count each column to see which pet is the most popular in our class.
This simple hands-on math activity gives practice in making choices, counting, and noticing "more" and "less".